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Content Marketing 18 min read

B2B Inbound Marketing: What You Need to Know in 2023 and Beyond

inbound marketing in b2b
David Mornea
David Mornea
CEO of Breeeze

Blasting your message into the B2B ether and hoping to be heard is not the best long-term approach to flourish your business.

Enter inbound marketing. This strategy lures your target audience with a clever hook and reels them with valuable content. It's like a reverse pick-up line that actually works.

You're on the right page to learn how to do effective inbound marketing. This guide showcases:

  • The particularities of B2B inbound marketing, comparing it to B2C and outbound marketing;
  • 4 benefits you can reap;
  • 5 tactics that move the needle with SEO tools and examples;
  • A 7-step actionable, evergreen plan you can copy.

Keep reading below.

What Is B2B Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is also known as "pull" marketing. That's because you're attracting customers to your business instead of pushing them.

And you're doing that throughout all the sales funnel stages.

For B2B inbound marketing, you must align your marketing efforts to the B2B sales funnel, which is different than B2C:

This deformed sales funnel looks like this:

marketing funnel

What does that mean for your company?

Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

B2B marketing channels fall into two categories: inbound and outbound.
To compare, let's start with a tl;dr followed by an (unexpected) analogy:

outbound vs inbound marketing

Imagine a young child who wants to stay up late.
The parent can:

1.Bribe the child with a new toy or threaten with a time-out to get the child to bed early. That's similar to outbound marketing.
2.Explain to the child every day the importance of good sleep. The parent can use books, cartoons, or other age-appropriate props like finger puppets. Ultimately, the child understands the benefits of an early bedtime and wants to comply. That's like inbound marketing.

These intrusive, short-term marketing tools can generate massive sales during a well-defined period.

Side note: Outbound marketing also relies less on audience segmentation than inbound marketing, which values a granular understanding of the target audience.

This ad for Cisco is a good example of an outbound tactic:

By contrast, inbound marketing relies on offering resources that support your B2B buyers along the sales funnel with personalized information.

Remember: You're attracting your prospects, not pushing them toward your products.

Cisco uses some inbound strategies on its social media profiles and websites.

For example, this post educates prospects on the dangers of supply chain attacks, leading them to a free podcast to get more info:

Besides, Cisco's website is a treasure trove of helpful resources, from articles to webinars and guided online courses (with certifications):

What Are the Benefits of Inbound Marketing?

We already touched on some benefits of inbound marketing. Let's summarize all the advantages you can reap:

Better Search Engine Ranking

Inbound marketing relies on answering people's needs proactively with multiple resources.

That means you'll write in-depth pieces using many target keywords with high search intent. Consequently, you'll rank higher in search engines and be more visible.

Better Reputation

Offering all these resources establishes you as an authority or thought leader in your niche.

More businesses will trust your expertise, signing up for your newsletters and reading your website as a matter of course.

And businesses aren't the only ones that will consume and share your content. High-quality resources are an excellent inbound B2B link-building strategy, gaining more links from authoritative websites in your niche.

All this helps create qualified leads that put your brand top of their mind.

Higher Conversion Rates

    Remember: People actually heed inbound marketing messages instead of ignoring them because these messages are:

  • Highly relevant;
  • Non-disruptive;
  • That factor skyrockets your persuasion power compared to disruptive outbound strategies.

More ROI

Studies show that inbound marketing has three times the ROI of outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing: Tactics that Move the Needle

If these advantages convinced you that it’s time to hop on the inbound marketing train, let’s see what tactics you can use:

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a must for any inbound strategy, especially in the B2B industry. Because you're addressing highly qualified decision-makers, who don't typically make impulsive purchases.

Besides, your content must be carefully aligned to your B2B prospect's buyer's journey across the sales funnel.

You must answer their needs with targeted, helpful solutions, nurturing them throughout the buying process.

And they all have one thing in common: Focus on answering your customers’ pain points completely and comprehensively.

Thorough guides and step-by-step how-to materials should be part of your routine.

Pro tip: Use a keyword research tool to ensure you generate content that responds to your buyers’ search intent.

serpstat keyword research tool

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Use these insights to organize topic clusters and produce relevant content for your target audience.

For example, Adobe published this questionnaire on their blog using the "data management" seed keyword.

Although it's not technically a blog post, it does appear on their resource center. And it helps companies assess their data management system better than an article outlining the variables to consider.

Remember: Focusing on your customers' needs will help you think outside the box and find customized, effective solutions like this.

Besides, this type of article allows Adobe to rank for multiple other long-tail keywords in the same topic cluster, such as:

Basically, each of their questions includes such a keyword.

Video content is gaining traction too.

In the context of B2B, video allows you to explain how your products work in more depth. That way, you:

Pro tip: Industry studies and original research help you attract the attention of potential link partners.

Sure, these materials educate your audience. They help your B2B buyers compare faster between different solutions and decide easier in your favor because you're highlighting your expertise.

But these tools are also link-baits for authoritative websites in your niche, enhancing your link profile.

For example, EcoEnclose published an in-depth study about paper vs. plastic on their website.

This study showcases precise and unique results to this dilemma, which is why it has 36 backlinks from 34 domains at the time of this writing.

Social Media Marketing

Social media allows you to attract and entertain your audience when they're not acting in their professional capacities.

That means you can connect with them more profoundly, which is important because people buy from people. This connection is made primarily through:

Besides, using social media effectively increases word-of-mouth considerably, especially if you encourage user-generated content.

EcoEnclose, a shipping solutions company, uses TikTok to connect with its audience, showcasing its products, values, and work culture.

    Pro tips:

  • Influencer marketing increases your visibility and credibility on social media if you partner with the right people.
  • Encourage your existing customers to produce user-generated content on social. This tactic creates social proof and awareness.
  • LinkedIn automated messages are another helpful tool to enhance your social media strategy. By utilizing automated messages, you can streamline communication and engage with your professional network more efficiently.

Testimonials

Testimonials prove your expertise. They answer pre-purchase questions and show your prospects real-life uses of your brand.

This valuable feedback can increase conversions significantly, especially if you show real results.

Royal Brinkman has a unique approach to testimonials:

Instead of focusing on its brand, it puts its customers in the limelight. The company's products are secondary characters that support the clients' main stories.

The tactic of using text and video testimonials for marketing feels less salesy and allows new prospects to connect with the brand more authentically.

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be both an inbound and outbound marketing strategy. In the case of outbound, you'll mostly rely on cold emails with highly promotional content.

B2B inbound email marketing depends on offering those valuable resources your potential and existing customers need. As a result, you will send highly personalized emails that support each stage in the marketing funnel.

This email from Hunter.io was sent to a person who just subscribed to their platform to use their free version:

Notice there's nothing salesy in this email. Readers simply learn how to use the tool to verify their emails with Hunter.

Search Engine Optimization

We saved the best for last, although we discussed some SEO elements, particularly B2B keyword research and link-building.

    Pro tips:

  • Start with a thorough website audit to identify your current SEO issues and prioritize the most important ones.
  • Analyze your competitors' keyword and backlink strategies. Ideally, it would help if you gained enough insights to reproduce the good parts of their system and leverage the opportunities they missed.
  • Focus on local SEO if you have a brick-and-mortar B2B business that you want to attract potential customers to.

That brings us to the next point.

Inbound Marketing Strategy Step by Step

Now you know what inbound marketing entails and the best tactics to adopt. Let's organize all that information in a step-by-step plan you can implement today.

Set Your Goals

Pro tip: Use your historical data to ensure your goals are realistic for the numbers you picked.

Build a Customer Value Proposition

That's why building a customer value proposition is easier than a B2B buyer persona.

Berlin Packaging offers a straightforward example on its front page, explaining they provide different packaging solutions for all customers.

Research Your Competition

Thorough competitor analysis reveals what works and what doesn't for your rivals. Adapt their experiences to your strategy.

Thorough competitor analysis reveals what works and what doesn't for your rivals. Adapt their experiences to your strategy.

Build Your Strategy

It's time to build your strategy now that you understand your opportunities.

1.Choose the right type of message and channels.
2.Pick the right SEO tools.
3.Conduct keyword research.
4.Map different target keywords in an Excel sheet, jotting down their search volume, competition, and best-performing content from your rivals targeting the same keyword.
5.Write down the type of content you need for each keyword according to sales funnel stages.

Create Engaging Content

Promote Your Content

Remember: The promotion process ends only when you have achieved your awareness goals.

For example, if you created a resource and your link-building outreach is unsuccessful, don't give up. Optimize your efforts until you get the results you're after.

Track and Optimize

Wrapping Up

This guide explained all the particularities of B2B inbound marketing.

You now know the tactics that work, useful SEO tools, and good examples. You also have an actionable inbound marketing plan to guide you.

Remember, the mindset behind this plan is "give more to gain more."

Follow that approach, use the right tools, and you will reach your marketing goals even if you make some mistakes along the way.

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